myMISSION Collegiate Blog

Taking Up Your Cross

If you are involved in a missions group, you’ve probably heard of Jesus’ command in Matthew 16:24, where he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (NIV). The cross was an instrument of execution that gave criminals a long and excruciating death. When Jesus spoke these words, He was asking His disciples to give their lives for the gospel.

Thankfully we live in a country where we are free to proclaim God’s truth. However, the fact that we don’t face physical persecution does not excuse us from actively obeying Christ’s command.

In fact, Christians in America definitely relate to one element of Jesus’ experience in taking up His cross—ridicule. Matthew 27:27–30 describes when an entire company of Roman soldiers relentlessly mocked Jesus. They dressed Him up as a king, gave Him a twisted crown of thorns, spat on Him, and repeatedly beat Him on the head.

Working on Vacation

Last year I spent my spring break on the beaches of Naples, Florida, enjoying the sunny, 75 degree weather with my friends. While this vacation gave me a break from college, God showed me that I am never “on break” from the work of His Kingdom.

One morning I was jogging down the beach by myself, listening to my favorite music playlist. The beach was mostly empty, but I noticed two young women who were doing yoga. I had never taken a yoga class, and I had heard mixed opinions about whether or not it had a religious aspect.

As I jogged past the women, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart. Yoga could be a great conversation started to bring up Jesus, I suddenly thought. But why would I talk to random people on the beach? What if they think I’m stuck-up? What if we never even get to the subject of Christianity?

I asked God to shut down these excuses as I turned around and walked back towards the women. They were rolling up their yoga mats when I approached them.

“Hi,” I said, “Are you doing yoga?”

How dumb! I immediately thought to myself. Of course they’re doing yoga. They’ll think I’m crazy!

What If the Sunday School Answer Is True?

Last August, I moved back to college early for a week of training for a leadership organization I was a part of. I had the opportunity to get to know students who I would work with for the upcoming school year, and I wanted to make a good first impression.

One of our meetings focused on motivation. We ended up breaking off into pairs to discuss our individual source of inspiration and purpose.

I immediately knew my answer: Christ is my source of motivation. However, did that sound like a cop-out? I was afraid that my partner would look at me like I just stepped out of Sunday School. It was my first chance to get to know this group, and I didn’t want to be labeled as the goody-goody church girl.

Despite these excuses running through my head, I knew in my heart that I needed to share the truth. God is my purpose, my life, and the reason that I live the way I do. He calls us to preach Christ and His gospel, even if people view us as weak or unintellectual.

Reaching Beyond Your Culture

When I was in first grade, a girl named Esther joined our class. My teacher explained that Esther’s family had just moved from Hungary, and Esther spoke very little English.

I loved Esther from day one. I thought she was fascinating, and I wanted to help her feel a part of our class. I discovered the perfect tool for breaking the ice: stuffed animals. Each day, I would bring one stuffed animal for Esther to play with in class. Even though she couldn’t communicate well with words, we both knew how to play with toys.

Later I decided that I wanted to get Esther a Hungarian Bible. My mom tried to help me find one, but we were unsuccessful. However, we did buy her a Bible in English. Esther’s mom told me that their family had one Bible, but Esther had never had one of her own. She was very excited.

Since befriending Esther, I have always had a passion for sharing the gospel with people from a different culture. The great news in college is that I’m surrounded by people from other cultures!

Loving for the Long Run

She’s the girl who doesn’t realize her boots went out of style three years ago. She’s the girl who constantly brags about her accomplishments and drives you crazy. She’s the girl who knows she’s an outcast. She’s also the girl who has no clue what people say behind her back.

We can all think of someone like this, and our first inclination is usually not to love them. Instead of saying, “She looks like she needs a friend,” we think, “I hope she doesn’t sit next to me!”

Jesus says that people will know that we are His disciples if we love one another (John 13:35). So how do we love people? By inviting them to dinner one Friday night, helping them study for an upcoming test, or stopping by their dorm room to ask how their day went.

These are all great ways to reach out to people, but they’re only the first steps to developing a relationship. If all we do is invite someone to hang out for 30 minutes, is that showing them that we really care?

My Secret Gift

When I was in second grade, I grew my hair out to donate it to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients. By December, I finally felt like my hair was long enough to cut off eight inches. My aunt is a hairstylist, and she agreed to give me a haircut at my grandparents’ house on Christmas Day.

When I first looked in the mirror after I heard the loud snip, I was taken aback by the drastic difference. My hair was short! But when Aunt Jen handed me an 8-inch ponytail, a warm feeling of excitement bubbled up from inside me. Someone with cancer was going to wear my hair.

Pretty soon I was flitting about my grandparents’ house, getting oohs and ahs from all of my family. “Rachel, your haircut looks so good,” they told me. “And that’s amazing that you’re donating it to help people. How cool!”

It didn’t take long before my head (not my hair) started to grow. Later that afternoon my Nana pulled me aside. “Rachel, I’m very proud of you,” she said, “but I want you to remember something. The Bible says that when we give, we should give in secret. The best part is that God is watching, and He will reward you” (Matt. 6:1–6).

Keep Knocking

It’s easy to pray for wisdom during a test, courage for a job interview, or safety while traveling home. We’re confident that God can answer those prayers. More than that, the answer to the prayer (or the result of the situation) is coming soon. You pass the test, don’t get the job, or arrive safely at home.

However, praying for people can be different, especially people you don’t like or agree with. I’m ashamed to admit that I have thought, “Is it really worth praying for them? They’re never going to change.” Even though I may not feel like praying for someone, I have to realize that I don’t act upon my feelings. I act in obedience to God’s Word.

In Luke 11:5–8, Jesus tells a story about a man whose friend showed up at his house at midnight. The man had no food to offer the traveler, so he ran to another friend, banged on the door, and asked for three loaves of bread. The supposed “friend” answered, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything” (Luke 11:7 NIV).

Brew a Cup of Real Love

Woman holds a cup of coffee

Have you ever tried to make coffee without coffee?

Probably not. The idea is clearly impossible, but I have often wished that I could do such a thing. Take a Monday morning, when you roll out of bed and stumble towards the coffee maker, only to realize that your precious bag of dark-roast coffee is empty. You want to make coffee. You have the equipment to make coffee. But you can’t actually produce a cup of coffee without the coffee itself.

In the same way, we can’t produce unconditional love for others on our own; we have to start with the unconditional love of Christ. First John 4:7–21 is filled with insights about loving God and loving others. Verse 7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God” (NIV). Love doesn’t come from our desire to please others or even to do the right thing. It comes from God.

Secondly, verse 10 shows us that God’s love is unconditional. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (NIV). We were sinners, completely undeserving of God’s love and mercy, but God loved us anyway.

A Small Me in a Big World

SPOILER ALERT: For anyone who hasn’t heard, the Tooth Fairy is not real. When I was seven years old, I demanded the truth from my can’t-keep-a-secret grandmother. Although I had been suspicious, the Tooth Fairy revelation changed the way I viewed my tiny world. I realized I had not fully understood something, and I needed to shift my perspective.

Fast-forward 13 years, and my perspective on life continues to expand. College makes you realize that you’re a little person in a very big world. You become aware of serious social issues, extreme poverty, and people groups still unreached by the gospel. You come to the sobering realization that you can’t fix all of the world’s problems. However, the real question is not what can’t you do, but what can you do.

1. Educate yourself.

Sometimes it is hard to relate to people who are different from us. As Christians, we can’t write off people groups around the world because they’re from a different culture or background. Instead of ignoring what we don’t understand, we need to dig deeper. The more we understand, the more we can tell them about Jesus.

2. Find your passion.

Witnessing Their Way

 What first enters your mind when you hear the phrase “missions trip”? Is it construction projects, international travels, or children’s camps? Most trips have a set “mission.” However, I’ve realized that our plans are pointless if we don’t look for the needs of people and meet them where they are.

A few years ago I went on a missions trip to the Golden Isles in Georgia, and one day we were scheduled to play games with residents at a nursing home. I love board games and couldn’t wait to round up a group of seniors for some good old competition.   

We set up Mexican Train Dominoes, and I sat next to a woman named Miss Flora. “I don’t want to play the game,” she told me.

“Of course you want to play!” I exclaimed.

“I’m blind,” Miss Flora said curtly.

After an awkward pause, I said, “Well, Miss Flora, we can be on a team. I can tell you everything that is going on!” It didn’t take me long to realize that listening to the number of dots on dominos was not very fun.

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